Diuretic, digestive and antibacterial are just some of the properties of lovage, also known as mountain celery. Let’s find out more about all the characteristics and uses of this plant.
Levisticum officinalis Koch is the scientific name of the lovage, the plant belonging to the genus Levisticum of the Apiaceae family. Also called Mountain Celery or Appio montano. There are several synonyms of officinal levisticum such as: Hipposelium levisticum, Levisticum Levisticum, Ligusticum levisticum, Selinum Levisticum.
Lovage grows mainly in the mountains, as its popular name tells us, and is still not much cultivated in vegetable gardens. The first to appreciate the properties of this plant, originally from Asia, were the countries of northern Europe.
The lovage is a perennial plant, characterized by a long stem up to 2 meters high, which ends with yellow or orange inflorescences. It has leaves similar to those of parsley and small seeds 5-7 mm in size. Each part of the plant is harvested at different times. Autumn is reserved for seeds and roots, however the latter can only be harvested in the second and third year of the plant’s life. The ideal period for harvesting the leaves, on the other hand, is from April to June. Let’s now see the nutritional properties of lovage.
Lovage: characteristics and nutritional values
The main feature of Lovage is certainly to be attributed to the presence of phytochemical compounds. These are molecules naturally present in plants with both organoleptic activities, such as color, smell, taste and biological.
Among the substances present in mountain celery we find eugenol with disinfectant, local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties and carvacrol responsible for the characteristic odor of the plant. Also note the presence of coumarins, in particular umbelliferone with demonstrated hypotensive activity, also used in the therapy of dysmenorrhea.
The levisitico also has antioxidant activities, thanks to its high content in phenolic compounds. Much valued in the kitchen for the flavor it gives to dishes, similar to the stock cube, we can often find it among the ingredients of the various seasonings on the market.
Lovage is particularly rich in essential oils, mostly concentrated in the seeds. A total of 190 different molecules have been identified so far. Its nutritional composition has been little studied so far. However, some bromatological studies on aromatic herbs have highlighted the following composition:
Nutritional values per 100g of lovage:
- Essential oils: 2%
- Proteins: 18.54 gr
- Fibers: 4.45 gr
- Magnesium: 6.76 gr
- Soccer: 104.1 mg
- Potassium: 142 mg
- Sodium: 3.9 mg
- Iron: 0.25 mg
- Copper: 0.14 mg
- Magnanese: 0.65 mg
- Zinc: 4.12 mg
Lovage: health benefits
The good presence of minerals, as well as essential oils (which are already used individually for the treatment of multiple symptoms) gives the lovage beneficial properties for health. Let’s see in detail all the benefits of mountain celery.
Lovage is rich in phenolic compounds with strong antioxidant activities that promote liver protection, as shown by a fairly recent study in which the levisitcous extract, administered to rats intoxicated by a herbicide, protected the liver from oxidative stress and the consequent destruction of liver cells.
✓ Antimicrobial and antifungal, disinfectant and antiseptic
Some studies have confirmed the antibacterial and antifungal properties of lovage. In particular, it has been shown that the extract of the root and seeds of the plant is able to destroy the cells of pathogenic microorganisms such as E. faecalis, S. aureus, Escherichia coli, Candida albicans, S. cerevisiae.
✓ Lovage in slimming
The lovage root extract seems to be useful in inhibiting more than 50% of pancreatic lipases (LP), the enzymes responsible for the digestion of fats, inducing a lower absorption of the latter. This activity would help in the loss of body weight, however it is necessary to be careful not to fall into the error of considering lovage as a slimming substance but, at most, only as a possible support in the dietary path, accompanied by physical activity and a balanced diet.
The lovage is a source of important doses of Quercitin, belonging to the flavonoid family. This substance is known for its ability to block certain enzymes responsible for the growth of cancer cells (ornithine decarboxylase, phosphoinositide kinase). The antitumor property of Quercetin has been extensively studied in different types of tumor, however, to date there are still no studies that would confirm this activity directly in Lovage.
Quercetin contained in lovage blocks the production of leukotrienes, molecules responsible for inflammation in asthma with a consequent improvement in breathing.
The antioxidant property of lovage is given by the high content of flavonoids, such as the aforementioned Quercitin or Kampferol and the modest content of vitamin C, which acts as a reducing agent capable of neutralizing reactive oxygen species.
✓ Antihypertensive, mild anticoagulant, diuretic
Several authors report the presence of aromatic compounds called coumarins, in the root of lovage. However, these are mainly non-hydrolyzed coumarins (such as Umbelliferone or Furinocoumarone) with a mild anticoagulant power since these molecules are effectively inactivated, from this point of view, by digestion. The same molecules, however, help to reduce blood pressure as they are diuretic and the pharmacopoeia recommends the use of lovage as a support in the treatment of gravel (kidney sand).
Lovage: some tips for use
One of the curious aspects of lovage is its different use depending on the country. Thus, for example, the Czech Republic and Spain consider it only as a component of the products in which it is combined with other aromatic herbs such as Peppermint, Licorice root and mainly used to reduce gastric disorders. While in Germany and Poland the whole plant is traditionally used both as a decoction and in the kitchen.
Giving the characteristic flavor reminiscent of celery and, as previously mentioned, also the stock cube, it adapts perfectly to all dishes. Levisitico leaves, dried or fresh, can be added to soups, sauces, stews, braised, preferably at the end of cooking. Chopped stalk fits salad dressing. The grated or dried and sprinkled root is also an excellent condiment while the ground seeds give a unique flavor to bread and baked goods.
We advise you to also try the flavored oil, leaving the lovage seeds (slightly crushed) in a container with extra virgin olive oil for 24 hours. Subsequently it can be filtered or consumed as such, also eating the seeds.
Lovage: contraindications and potential negative effects
Like all plants used in natural medicine, lovage is not without contraindications and requires attention in the presence of some pathologies. Being a diuretic, it promotes hypotension so it could increase the action of hypotensive drugs. Even if there are no particular interactions with drugs, we advise you to consult your doctor or pharmacist before using it in conjunction with drugs. Also not recommended in case of renal failure and inflammation of the renal parenchyma with edema (swelling).
For pregnant women it is recommended to limit the use of Levisitco only as an aromatic herb in the kitchen as its properties are known to stimulate menstruation. Finally, prolonged exposure to the sun is not recommended while using levisitco extracts. This is because, being rich in furanocoumarins (photosensitizing molecules), it increases the risk of sunburn and skin reactions to the sun.
The lovage, in popular medicine, was seen as a powerful aphrodisiac. In fact it was part of the ingredients of love drinks. It was also used as a lucky charm for young brides, inserted in their hairstyles and for newborns, added to the first bath of the little ones.